Belmont will reopen June 3 for a 25-day meet with a stakes schedule that includes a number of purse cuts and the cancellation of several stakes traditionally run in the spring at the NYRA tracks. Spectators will not be allowed to attend the races throughout the spring season at Belmont.
Following the opening week, racing will be held Thursdays through Sundays with closing day scheduled for July 12.
“The resumption of live racing at Belmont Park June 3, with all appropriate health and safety protocols in place, will support the hundreds of small businesses, family-owned farms and thousands of hourly workers who form the backbone of Thoroughbred racing in New York,” NYRA President & CEO Dave O’Rourke said in a statement. “The return of live sports, especially New York institutions like the Belmont Stakes, is a welcome sign of progress that will bring some sense of normalcy back to our everyday lives.”
The stakes schedule for the spring/summer meet will feature 40 total stakes races worth $7 million, including 22 graded stakes. The highlight of the meet will be the GI Belmont S., which has been pushed back to June 20 and will now be the first leg of the Triple Crown. Like so many races on the schedule, the Belmont will have a reduced purse of $1 million, down from the $1.5 million paid out in 2019.
The cuts include: The GI Runhappy Metropolitan S. ($1.2 million to $500,000); the GI Just a Game S. ($700,000 to $300,000); the GI Ogden Phipps S. ($700,000 to $300,000): the GI Manhattan S. ($1 million to $400,000); the GI Acorn S. ($700,000 to $300,000); the GII Suburban S. ($700,000 to $200,000); the GI Jaipur S. ($400,000 to $250,000); the GII Ruffian S. ($250,000 to $100,000); and the GI Woody Stephens S. ($400,000 to $250,000).
The GI Carter S. Has been moved from Aqueduct and will held June 6. The purse has been reduced from $400,000 to $250,000. It will take the place of the GII John Nerud S., also a sprint, that has traditionally been part of the spring meet. Other races that will be missing from the Belmont meet are the GI Man O’ War S., the GII Mother Goose S., the GII Brooklyn S., the GIII Peter Pan S. and the GII Dwyer S.
NYRA Senior Vice President, Racing Operations Martin Panza said that overnight purses had also been cut, by about 13%.
“The casino [at Aqueduct] is not operating and that’s 38% of our purse money,” Panza explained. “There’s no on-track play, so that’s another percentage we lose that affects how much purse money we have. Everyone is pretty much having to cut purses to some extent. The business model that funds purses has been disrupted by the pandemic. We didn’t have much of a choice here. We tried to put as much money into our overnight purses as possible. Traditionally, NYRA has a lot of graded stakes and traditionally, NYRA has always had a high percentage of money go to stakes. With the pandemic, the casino being closed and losing all the on-track handle, it forced our hand.”
The GI Belmont Oaks and GI Belmont Derby Invitationals, part of NYRA’s Turf Triple Series, were also absent from the schedule, but, according to a the press release issued Tuesday, the series will be held at a later date.
The Belmont Stakes card will be packed with big races as the Acorn, Jaipur, the Woody Stephens, the GII Pennine Ridge S. and the GIII Wonder Again will be run that day.
Beginning with the GIII Beaugay S., there will be a stakes race on every day of the meet.